Saturday 7th of August 2021 marked an important and most welcome milestone in Derbyshire Freemasonry with the Annual General Meeting being held at the Grange in Derby.
The lockdown had brought Freemasonry in Derbyshire to a halt but slowly and surely the Province is waking up with regular meetings recommencing. The first Annual General Meeting since 2019 was well attended – members were clearly delighted to be able to meet each other again and witness an excellent ceremony, as always under the confident and watchful eye of Ravi Kumar-Sahnan ( Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies )
The new team will have a busy year – with some 180 candidates waiting to come on board there will be lots to do.
To enhance the day, there were a good number of distinguished guests from other Provinces as well as heads of orders in Derbyshire, and an friendly and very enjoyable festive board rounded the day off beautifully.
The Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master Steven Varley delivered his address which was very positive and boded well for the future:
It is so good to be ‘back on the road’ again and to see so many here notwithstanding the natural reticence many still have about public gatherings. To say the last 18 months has been a tad difficult would be a massive understatement and the pandemic has cost us a few old and well-loved friends. We may be a bit rusty after our long hibernation but we are slowly coming back and I am a firm believer in turning a negative into a positive. So let us not have gloomy thoughts but look at what you managed to achieve during the lockdowns.
The massive impact and success of the Square Meals initiative run from Chesterfield and Burton and organised by WBros Jones and Prentice with a host of volunteer delivery drivers which was taken up national.
The Buddy scheme kept an eye on everyone.
The incredible effort to source and distribute vital PPE and hand sanitiser in the early days to some 76 organisations including the Derbyshire Police and well organised from Belper by Bro Blake with the tremendous support of our Motorcycle Lodge orchestrated by WBro Gough.
The Zooms which rapidly became a part of everyday life and kept us connected, amused and informed.
The Amadeus Travelling Headset devised by Bro Andy Glaves to replace temporarily the Tercentenary Travelling Gavel ensured a particularly competitive edge to several Zoom meetings.
The Grand Master’s Certificates of Commendation for going above and beyond the call of duty which went to many in Derbyshire with more to follow.
The Porchway Club for new and young Masons has grown considerably during our enforced holiday and been very active in supporting the younger, junior brethren.
Finally, the successful NHS day with our customised banners which attracted considerable attention coupled with the many Freemasons who were volunteers at the various vaccination centres.
You should all be very proud of what has been achieved under difficult circumstances. Along the way we managed a bit of active Freemasonry in between the various lockdowns including obligating and investing WBro Giles as APGM and more recently in July obligating and investing VWBro Copestake as DepPGM and WBro Bailey as APGM.
To the future – what have we in store?
By now you will all be aware of the Membership Challenge and the relaunch of the Members’ Pathway both aimed at attracting new members, stemming avoidable losses and growing our Lodges. The last 18 months, despite the pandemic, has seen a marked reduction in the number of resignations and exclusions. Whether this is due to the Zooms and our other activities resonating with everyone or whether we have reached a natural turning point, I don’t yet know, but with somewhere in the region of 180 prospective candidates, the future for Freemasonry in Derbyshire is beginning to look quite hopeful. However, we must guard against complacency and falling into the old trap of congratulating ourselves on bringing in new members and thinking how well we have done whilst all the time forgetting about the huge hole in the bottom of the boat through which double that number have dropped and left Freemasonry. Do not neglect those who have been waiting sometime to be Passed and Raised. Engage with everyone and never ever let any Freemason, be he a new member or a venerable Past Master, feel unloved and alone!
We have a new, young and eager Provincial Membership Officer in James Blake, an experienced Mentor in Martyn Prior and a very experienced Almoner in George Frost. They all now have a team of assistants and are keen to ensure we use the Members’ Pathway properly this time such that it becomes an effective tool in helping Freemasonry flourish again. You may already have seen the Prepping for Pathway Article or Cossie’s Cake as it has become known and I invite each of the Derbyshire Lodges to follow it, prepare a Lodge Outline and Plan and have them on our website. Bro Blake is preparing a template to assist which you can customise and his membership team, along with our new Provincial Communications Officer WBro Riley, will be only too pleased to assist. If you feel your Lodge is, for any reason, unable to appoint someone to the offices of Membership Officer or Mentor, just contact WBro Prior or Bro Blake – they will be only too happy to provide support. More on this topic in the coming days.
We have also taken a decision to appoint a number of junior brethren to a non-collared office in the Province, primarily as assistants to the Membership Officer or within the contact team and I am personally delighted to see that many Lodges have followed the Provincial lead and appointed a Lodge Membership Officer who is not a Past Master – a very exciting development which I am sure will prove beneficial.
A Contact Team, led by WBro McVeigh, has been established and tasked with engaging with those resigning and endeavouring to establish the real reason for the resignation and whether any assistance can be given to change that decision. Even in these early stages we are already seeing positive results.
VWBro Copestake and the Membership Team have been working incredibly hard during Lockdowns to prepare for the return to active Freemasonry and I am certain their efforts will pay dividends.
Subject to approval being given and the Warrant ready in time, we hope to consecrate the Resurgam Lodge – a lodge for those interested in brass bands – on Saturday November 20th if all goes to plan. I am advised that as well as the Petitioners, there are a number waiting to join and be initiated but the bonus must be there are at least 8 hitherto ‘unattached Freemasons’ who will be re-joining Freemasonry – proof that specialist lodges do have their place.
On Monday 23rd August, there will be a recommendation made to the brethren of Liversage Lodge that it acts as the sponsoring Lodge for a proposed rugby Lodge, likely to be known as Nomads Rugby Lodge. This will be a full visit by the Provincial Team and I know the proposed Primus Master would be delighted to see as many brethren as possible attend, particularly the Petitioners who include RWBro Philip Marshall and RWBro John Lockley.
St Werburga Lodge will celebrate its delayed Centenary on Friday 24th September and the night before – the 23rd September – will see the ‘retirement’ of the aforementioned Travelling Headset at Amadeus Lodge. Everyone is welcome to both those meetings.
WBro Giles has been working quietly behind the scenes to encourage all our meeting places, where possible, to have a form of corporate signage. You will have seen the signs put up here at the Grange and Ashbourne, Alfreton, Belper, Long Eaton and Buxton have similar signs up already. All have attracted considerable positive interest from the general population. Chesterfield, Ilkeston, New Mills, Ripley, Burton and Glossop are making arrangements as well. We are also in negotiations with those premises that are not Masonic Halls to have some form of acknowledgement that a Freemason’s Lodge meets on the premises.
Thursday 28th October will also see the formal opening of the refurbished and much improved Belper Freemasons’ Hall when Beaureper Lodge will be conducting a passing ceremony. If you haven’t been there recently, then please make the effort – the work undertaken during lockdown and the resulting transformation both downstairs and up from dreary works canteen to an elegant bar and dining area plus extensively refurbished Temple is a joy to behold and huge credit to WBros Peter Brown and Steve Dawson and their many helpers for what they have achieved – where there is a will, there’s a way.
The Provincial Membership Team are also planning a series of White Table meetings or Open Evenings (as they are now becoming) with the first being at Ashbourne on Thursday 11th November when the three Ashbourne Lodges will come together; I understand there will be at least 20 curious none Masons present!
In addition, we are planning for the dedication and handover to the Mercian Regiment of the Garden of Remembrance at Crich and the delayed Army Cadets nights at Chesterfield and Derby with, hopefully, very special guests.
As you are aware, saving our Heritage is important to me and I am delighted that WBros Prentice and Clayton have been performing sterling work in that respect. Several very important artefacts and books have been acquired and we are looking to revamp the library and introduce a number of additional display cases to house our growing collection. This building has an exciting history both in terms of Freemasonry and otherwise. It was purchased by Rolls Royce in 1939 and what is now our dining room was added. It was there that the famous Merlin engine was designed and developed. Next year sees the 50th anniversary of our occupation of this building and the 200th anniversary of its construction. The first owner was the first Initiate into Tyrian lodge, the third owner was a member of Tyrian, RR was the fourth and then us. Accordingly, we hope to have a formal opening of the renamed Merlin Suite with distinguished guests and local dignitaries present.
2020 and 2021 has seen the retirement of several senior Provincial officers not least VWBro Brian Evangelista, who has been a very loyal and hard-working Deputy for the last 6 years as well as having been an APGM for 4 years and Provincial Secretary for 8. He is, unfortunately, stuck in Scotland and we hope to be able to present him with his collarette and other items on some future occasion.
WBro Michael Knifton is retiring after 11 years as Treasurer along with WBro John Howarth as Chaplain, Bromley Kniveton as Orator and John Marson as Auditor; we wish them and all others who are standing down the very best for the future and thank them for their dedication and support.
To the Officers of 2021 – whether reappointed from 2020 or newly appointed this year, you have waited a long time for this moment and I am sure you will make the most of your year in office. I know you can't wait to get cracking and we have many Official Visits planned. This year nearly all the Installations are being carried out by the Provincial Senior and Junior Warden together with WBro Keith Roberts who missed out completely in his year in 2020 as SW and has now stepped up to Provincial Secretary plus WBros Riley and Foster, the Wardens from 2019 who lost nearly three months of their tenure. Brother acting Officers – they need your support so please do give it. The four Chains will be concentrating on attending regular meetings and catching up with the outstanding 50, 60 and 70 year certificates and would also welcome your presence. Pleas enjoy your year and make the most of it. I am sure you will do more visiting than the officers of 2020!
As always, I am delighted the MW Grand Master has honoured several brethren with appointment to or promotion in Grand Rank in both 2020 and 2021.
I would ask those brethren to stand when their names are read out and remain standing until I have finished when I am sure, brethren, you will wish to show you fulsome appreciation.
In 2020 promoted to PSGD WBros Ian Copestake and Jonti Powis.
Receiving first appointments to PJGD WBro Martin Giles and to PAGDC WBro Ian McDarmaid; to PAGStdBr WBros James Bentley and Colin Cantrell.
In 2021 promoted to PGSwdBr, thus becoming a Very Worshipful, V WBro Ian Copestake; to PSGD WBro Martyn Bailey and to PJGD WBros Graham Sisson and Tony Harvey
Hearty congratulations to you all and I am only sorry you could not have the pleasure of being formally invested at Great Queen St.
Occasions such as this don’t just happen and we should all be grateful for the hard work, time and effort of a number of people who have made sure today and all previous events run as smoothly as possible.
During the lockdowns, Julie Foster set up and ran the Provincial Office from her dining room and ensured WBros Martyn Bailey and Keith Roberts were able to carry out their duties as Provincial Grand Secretary without a hitch. WBro Ravi Sahnan, our Provincial DC and his team have, despite the limitations placed on them, still managed to make sure I know where I am going and what I am meant to be doing and when!
This is going to be a tremendous year and I have the benefit of an enthusiastic and dedicated Provincial team. We are going to have a lot of fun and enjoy ourselves without a shadow of a doubt but above all we should be proud to be Derbyshire Masons. I'm proud to be a Derbyshire Mason and I am so very proud of you."